How to create a talk you can guarantee will be of interest to your target audience

If you’ve read my previous posts then you will know that I am on a mission to encourage software developers to give public speaking a try. I’ve already spoken about the benefits it can have on careers as well has how to overcome some of the obstacles and challenges that put people off.

In my last post I discussed how one of the biggest sticking points is that people don’t really know what to speak about. I wrote about my discussions with Simon Maple, 20-year conference veteran and a hugely respected public speaker. We discussed choosing a topic to build some content around through either introspection and reflection or from discussions with mentors, managers or peers. This post is about what to do once you know what topic you want to speak about.

Simon has built a career around developer relations. This role is not just about giving presentations but about continually creating new, interesting and engaging content. Simon says that the best approach to any presentation is to look at it as a problem-solution style talk. This means that he normally starts by actively seeking out the problems people are having.

What this means is that you’re looking for the problems that people are already facing within your subject matter. You need to find the places that your target audience congregate to talk about this subject and do your research. This can be done in slack groups, communities or mailing lists. You can also do it at conferences or by casting a simple poll. You should be asking yourself these questions:

What are the problems people face when using this technology?

Why are they facing these problems?

Where are the pain points people have when trying to use a product or the main challenges they face when trying to learn something new?

It can be done most easily at conferences and meetups by just asking people outright about areas that they struggle with or is there anything they don’t understand. You should be looking for the top 2–3 burning questions people have, or the most commonly recurring challenges.

If you can find these challenges then you know the main takeaways your presentation needs to have will be the solutions to these problems.

If you can successfully cover solutions, elegantly and concisely to the most frequently asked questions, or biggest challenges then you can almost guarantee that you will have an interested audience who will be most grateful for your talk.

If you are interested in giving speaking a try, we run an Aspiring Speakers group and have already helped lots of developers take their first steps into giving their own presentations. Take a look at some of their testimonials here -

Founder of RecWorks (Tech Recruitment), Tech Career Hacker, Java User Group Founder (LJC), London CTOs Organiser, Mentor Match-Maker

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